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All Signs Point To Plea Negotiations For Alleged Russian Agent, Maria Butina

A flurry of court filings over the past few weeks suggests that alleged Russian agent Maria Butina is nearing a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors and attorneys for Butina held an impromptu conference call on Thursday to discuss the status of the case. According to reporters present at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., Butina’s lawyers said that a status update scheduled for Dec. 19 will likely not be necessary.

Butina, 29, was indicted on July 17 on charges that she acted as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government. Butina was closely linked to Alexander Torshin, the deputy chief of Russia’s central bank. The pair had close ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), largely because of their work with a Russian pro-gun group they operated called The Right to Bear Arms.

Prosecutors have accused Butina of acting at Torshin’s direction to infiltrate conservative political groups, including the NRA. They both made attempts to meet with political candidates, including President Donald Trump.

The case is being handled by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, and not the special counsel’s office.

Butina’s boyfriend, a Republican political operative named Paul Erickson, reached out to the Trump campaign in May 2016 seeking a meeting between Torshin and Trump.

Erickson sent an email to Trump campaign official Rick Dearborn entitled “Kremlin Connection.” In it, Erickson described Torshin as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s emissary and said that Russia was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.”

It is unclear what Dearborn did with the email, though Torshin and Trump did not meet. Torshin, who recently announced he is leaving the Russian central bank, met briefly with Donald Trump Jr. on the sidelines of the NRA convention in Louisville, Kentucky, held in May 2016.

The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that prosecutors have sent Erickson a target letter, indicating that he is under investigation for being a possible Russian agent.

The first signs of a Butina plea deal emerged on Nov. 16 when prosecutors said that there were “negotiations regarding a potential resolution” in the case.

Butina’s lawyer has declined comment, citing a court-imposed gag order.

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